A heartbroken North Melbourne coach Brad Scott was heckled after telling Brent Harvey and three other much-loved veterans they weren’t wanted at the AFL club.
The Kangaroos revealed on the eve of the finals that Harvey, Drew Petrie, Michael Firrito and Nick Dal Santo would not be offered contracts for 2017.
Scott suggested all four could have played on, based on current form, but the eighth-placed Kangaroos had to start planning beyond next season.
“It’s easily the hardest day in my coaching career,” Scott said, having joined North in 2009.
“The lead-up to that has been horrific … the decision would have been a lot easier had they all been playing poorly.
“It’s a heartbreaking decision.
“I’ve relied on them … they’ve been rocks.
“I understand a lot of fans will be disappointed.”
Sure enough – Scott was heckled during Wednesday’s training session at Arden St, while one supporter called in to cancel their membership.
None of the dumped four was willing to talk about their impending departures, with Harvey summing up their hurt when he told reporters it was “a bit too soon”.
Harvey passed Hawthorn great Michael Tuck in round 19 to become the AFL’s games record holder and had expressed a strong desire to play on.
He is now expected to retire.
The 38-year-old’s form has not waned in his 21st season but Petrie, Dal Santo and Firrito have endured inconsistent campaigns.
The four players told teammates the news before training, urging them to fire up for September.
“(They spoke) about how important it is – that we’re really professional and launching an assault on the finals,” Scott said.
“They’re all very, very disappointed and understandably so.
“(But) they completely understand where the football club is coming from.
“They dealt with things in an unbelievably professional and honourable manner.”
Scott admitted the strange timing of the announcement surprised some players at the club.
The Kangaroos wanted the quartet’s family, friends and fans to know before Saturday night’s clash with GWS at Etihad Stadium.
“We hope it’s not but there is as possibility this weekend’s game is our last game in Melbourne (in 2016),” Scott said.
“There’s always a risk with these things (the squad could splinter) but the bigger risk was having them walk off a ground in Melbourne not knowing their futures.”
Depending on how the final round plays out, North might travel to Perth, Adelaide or Sydney for an elimination final that could spell the end of their 2016 campaign.
* 430 games (AFL record)
* Four-time All Australian
* Five-time club best and fairest
SCOTT SAYS: “The legacy he’s going to leave will be unrivalled.”
NICK DAL SANTO:
* 320 games
* Three-time All Australian
* Finished second (2011) and third (2005) in Brownlow medal count
SCOTT SAYS: “I honestly don’t believe we would have played in successive preliminary finals if he didn’t come to our club.”
* 314 games
* North’s leading goal-kicker in five of the past seven seasons
* Sixth on North’s list of all-time goal-kickers with 428
SCOTT SAYS: “When North Melbourne’s in trouble, Drew goes to the spot where we’re struggling.”
* 273 games
* Represented Australia in 2008 International Rules series
* Sits fourth on list of most games played by an AFL player who started on the rookie list
SCOTT SAYS: “The rock and the ultimate club man. Everything we admire and love about North Melbourne.”